Campaign to protect Māori land from Public Works Act not over

On Wednesday night my Members’ Bill to stop the Public Works Act taking any more Māori land was voted down by the National Government. This is not the end of the campaign to raise awareness that the Public Works Act can still take Māori land.

I drafted the Bill because I was inspired by Patricia Grace and her whānau’s fight to protect their land from confiscation for the Kāpiti Expressway, a recent example of how the Public Works Act has been used time and time again to alienate Māori from their land. Less than 5% of land in Aotearoa is still held in Māori customary and freehold ownership, so it is completely unacceptable that the Public Works Act can still be used in the 21st century to confiscate Māori land.

We need to keep going and we will via the petition of nearly 5000 signatures that supports my Bill which has been presented to the Māori Affairs Select Committee. This petition is an expression of the strong concern people have for the protection of the remnant blocks of collectively-owned Māori land from the Public Works Act.

In my effort to get the Bill through the House I was told that the reforms of the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act would address Public Works concerns. This is because at every consultation hui around the motu, tangata whenua raised the ongoing impact of the Public Works Act on Māori land. There are numerous historical issues that need to be addressed and there is current risk, as Patricia’s case highlights. But sadly recent drafts of the proposed Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill makes no mention of sorting out Public Works issues that threatened or have threatened Māori land. The First Reading speeches from the Government were generally pretty ghastly, calling My Bill “separatist’ and ‘tokenistic’. But the opportunity now exists to persuade the Māori Affairs Select Committee to look at the issues behind the Bill and the petition and hear the voices of tangata whenua.

Thanks to everyone who signed the petition and has supported us with this campaign. We will be working on your behalf to see what more we can achieve to protect Māori land for the benefit of future generations.